oil and gas

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

With oil prices now at a six year low, oil companies have been idling hundreds of drilling rigs. For the wells that remain active, the key is getting more out of less...which is tricky because when you drill for oil, only around 5 percent of what’s underground is actually recovered. That’s according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports on how these days - with prices so low -  producers are using technology to chase oil thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. 

Stephanie Joyce

Radioactive waste is a common by-product of oil and gas drilling. On Friday, workers in North Dakota were cleaning up a pile of illegally dumped waste filters.  

Up to 100 filter socks were found in Williston, a North Dakota oil and gas boomtown in the western part of the state. Filter socks are the nets that strain out the sludge, which is sometimes radioactive, that is a by-product of oil production.  Dale Patrick from North Dakota’s Department of Public Health said that although the dumping was illegal, there was little threat to the public. 

Stephanie Joyce

People packed into a public hearing Monday about proposed changes to the rules governing how far oil and gas drilling has to be from homes and schools. The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is proposing to increase the "setback" distance from 350 feet to 500 feet. 

But Chuck White, who lives east of Cheyenne, told the Commission that 500 feet simply isn’t far enough for modern drilling operations.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The American landscape is dotted with over 100,000 deep injection wells. They’re a key part of our energy infrastructure. Without them, you probably wouldn't be able to fill up your tank. Because for every barrel of oil that comes out of the ground, salty and sometimes chemically-laced fluid comes up with it. This so-called produced water has to go somewhere - and much of it injected back into the earth. In the first of a 2 part series, Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reports on one company’s bid to get in the game.

INSIDE ENERGY: Residents Worry About Wastewater Disposal Well In Western Nebraska

Feb 27, 2015
NET News

A Colorado based oil company has applied for a permit to operate a wastewater injection well in Western Nebraska. In today’s story, Bill Kelly of NET News in Nebraska reports that a deeper look into the finances of the company behind the application is causing concern.

Stephanie Joyce

A coalition of environmental and landowner groups have reached a settlement with the State of Wyoming and Halliburton in a lawsuit over fracking chemical disclosure.

Wyoming was the first state in the nation to require public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or fracking, but the state has also granted more than a hundred exemptions to that rule to companies concerned that disclosure would reveal trade secrets.

The White House released a new plan to curb methane emissions Wednesday. Methane is the main component of natural gas and a major contributor to climate change. The proposed rules target new oil and gas development and aim to reduce methane emissions 45 percent by 2025. In a press call, Jeremy Symons, climate director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that reducing methane emissions is a cost-effective way to prevent climate change.

Stephanie Joyce

An oil worker died last week on a rig in Johnson County. Twenty-five year old Joshua Adam was killed Thursday at an Anschutz Corporation well site near Gillette. He was working for Texas-based contractor Basic Energy Services.

Hayley McKee, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, writes in an email that the incident happened during a well servicing operation. Adam’s death was caused by “an unexpected vertical movement of an oil derrick.” He died on site.

Willow Belden

 

A new data analysis by the Casper Star-Tribune shows last year, Wyoming oil companies flared $11 million dollars worth of natural gas. Ben Storrow reports on energy for the Casper Star Tribune and he wrote the story about wasted gas. He joined Wyoming Public Radio's Caroline Ballard to talk about it.

In an interview with Wyoming PBS Thursday night, Governor Matt Mead questioned scientific studies that have shown a link between oil and gas activities and earthquakes.

Stephanie Joyce

In case you hadn’t heard, the United States has been experiencing an oil boom for the last five years. The boom has helped the country’s economic recovery and created thousands of jobs for people in states like North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas. But although booms are often heralded for the economic opportunities they provide…they also have a darker side.

It’s almost two o’clock in the afternoon and the lunch rush at The Depot restaurant in Douglas, Wyoming is just beginning to taper off.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

This is an updated post from a previous story: INSIDE ENERGY: A Tiny Wyoming Town, Stuck In (Boom) Traffic

Miles Bryan

For a little shop like the Bill Store an energy boom can be a blessing. Nothing is better for a small business than lots of customers with cash to burn. But when wells close and energy workers head out of town the businesses that remain have to figure out how to survive.

Verne Waldner bought the Conoco Service Station in Wamsutter Wyoming back in 1973. There wasn’t much to the town then, and there still isn’t. Wamsutter sits off Interstate 80 and has a current population of just under 500.

Stephanie Joyce

As oil prices continue to plummet, energy-producing states are starting to feel the squeeze. Wyoming crude is selling for half what it was in June. That price drop means companies are making less money -- and so is the state.

This year, for the first time in decades, severance taxes from oil surpassed coal and came close to knocking natural gas out of its number one spot, but now, with oil prices falling, Governor Matt Mead says the state is losing out on a lot of money.

Stephanie Joyce

Oil prices continued their months-long freefall this week. The US benchmark crude price dropped below $60 a barrel for the first time in five years on Thursday. In Wyoming and other oil producing states, those lower prices are starting to take a toll on companies. 

Cyclone Drilling is one of Wyoming's largest drilling contractors. Manager Patrick Hladky says if prices don’t rebound quickly, he’s expecting to idle at least two of the company’s 27 rigs by the end of the month and even more in the first quarter of next year.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. Inside Energy reported earlier this year that these jobs are in fact six times more dangerous than the average American job. A new training center opening up in central Wyoming in 2015 is designed to address those risks by training students as young as 16 on the heavy equipment used in oil and gas production.

The Western Governor’s Association, including Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, passed a resolution this weekend saying the energy industry needs to reduce methane leakage. Methane is the main component of natural gas. The resolution says methane leaks are a serious financial and environmental problem.

Jon Goldstein is the Environmental Defense Fund’s Senior Policy Manager. He says leaks should be a concern not only for people worried about the environment, but also companies looking at the bottom line.

Stephanie Joyce

So far, Wyoming has largely managed to avoid the tensions over oil and gas development that have cropped up in other states. It’s not hard to imagine that it’s just a matter of time though, as companies have filed for hundreds of drilling permits in recent months in the vicinity of the state’s largest city, Cheyenne.

At an April meeting hosted by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Cathy Moriarty, of Torrington, said landowners needed better protections.

Stephanie Joyce

A month ago, something happened that many never imagined possible: Voters in Denton, Texas passed a ban on fracking.

In New York and even in Colorado, fracking bans weren't particularly shocking. But Texas? As the oil and gas industry navigates this latest energy boom, it’s facing a new and sometimes fraught relationship with the American public.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Working in the oil and gas industry is dangerous. As Inside Energy reported in its "Dark Side Of The Boom" series, these jobs are actually six times more dangerous than the average American job. But a new Department of Labor-sponsored training program could help fight that trend.

Wikimedia Commons

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission introduced a rule this week designed to head off conflict between landowners and companies as drilling activity moves into populated areas of the state. But so far, reaction to the proposal has been less-than-positive. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter, Stephanie Joyce, joins Bob Beck to talk about what’s been proposed and why landowners aren’t happy with it.

Bob Beck: At the center of this debate are something called “setbacks” – what is a setback and why is it so important?

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

The oil and gas boom in states like Wyoming, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas has not only brought jobs and prosperity but also a dangerous spike in traffic and accidents. These states have reacted with a variety of fixes, but not one has been able to prepare in advance for the traffic boom. That is partly because a large slice of transportation funding in most states comes from the oil and gas industry itself. Jim Willox is a local official in Wyoming’s Converse County, where much of the oil and gas boom is taking place:

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission gave a company permission to continue burning off large volumes of natural gas from its oil wells in Laramie County this week, but not before expressing its disapproval. Cirque Resources asked the Commission for permission to continue flaring more than 1.4 million cubic feet of natural gas per day -- enough to heat more than 7000 homes.

Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed increasing the buffer, or “setback,” between oil and gas wells and places like schools, hospitals and homes.

The current setback distance is 350 feet. Under the proposal that would increase to 500 feet. Companies would also have to comply with a new requirement to notify people living within 1000 feet of a well of any planned drilling activity and come up with a plan to mitigate potential impacts.

Stephanie Joyce

It’s lunchtime in Douglas, Wyoming and the line of cars at the McDonald’s drive-thru wraps around the building. A hiring poster hangs in the window and the parking lot is full. Leaning out the window of his black pick-up truck, Troy Hilbish says he had no idea oil prices have fallen more than a quarter in recent months. But he knows what falling oil prices mean. 

“If the oil prices go up, we drill more," he says. "If they go down, we don't drill as much.”

Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

(This is the first in an occasional series on the financing behind the country’s energy boom.)

Oil prices are slipping to levels not seen in years. That is bad for oil companies, but it has to be good for consumers, right?

The story is more complicated than that.  Nearly all of us with retirement accounts--the tens of millions of Americans with IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, or pension funds--are actually solidly invested in oil and gas companies.

Stephanie Joyce

Coal may be king in Wyoming, but oil is making steady inroads.The state budget forecast, released last last month, shows that last year, for the first time in decades, oil accounted for a larger share of state severance tax revenues than coal. Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Dan Noble says it will likely overtake natural gas in the coming year as well. “Oil is the new big game in town,” he said.

The energy industry can have an impact on politics in Wyoming, but other states as well. In North Dakota political spending is way up, with 17 million spent this year, more than double what was spent in 2010. Inside Energy’s Emily Guerin reports on why the stakes have suddenly gotten so high.

North Dakota has always been a friendly, easy place to vote. It is the only state in the country without voter registration, and precincts are small enough that poll volunteers often recognize people who come through the door.

What would the nation’s energy policy look like if Republicans capture the Senate this November? Matt Laslo caught up with Wyoming lawmakers and energy analysts to find out the potential impact on the state’s energy sector if the GOP gains control of the upper chamber.

Dan Boyce

For Colorado School of Mines petroleum engineering professor Carrie McClelland, teaching a  seminar of 45 students seems like a bit of relief. Normally her class sizes are closer to 80 or 90.

“It makes it difficult to make sure that they’re still getting a great education,” she said.

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